The digital disruption is still underway, changing products, category economics and customer relationships. A new report from Forrester Research offers ideas on how best to organize your company to survive the future.

The report, How to Organize for the Digital Future, says that organizations need to become nothing less than “customer obsessed.” But there’s no one model to structure your organization, Forrester’s Shar VanBoskirk writes. The “better way toward customer obsession is to shore up your digital strategy, governance and execution functions, regardless of your org structure.”

Talking Bathroom Scales

This means that e-Business and interactive marketing resources must be distributed throughout “the brands and business functions” of the enterprise, in order to flexibly respond to an evolution in customer relationships that has only begun.

Perhaps you thought the digital evolution of customers had pretty much shown its characteristics, but the report says that this “tempest” is still underway. The forces driving this tempest include the fact that customers are now individually addressable on virtually any device -- including ones that are not “familiar places for business interaction,” such as, eventually, bathroom scales or eyeglasses.

With that in mind, recognize that the boundaries of digital transformation have only begun with phones, TVs or watches. Now it’s moving to new conquests, including live events with interactive digital displays, such as concerts, or wearable computing, such as new Adidas jerseys worn by European soccer players that can diagnose player physiology and help analyze play strategy.

How Is Digital Changing Your Biz?

Even though we are now in our second decade of the public Web and years into the digitization of all media, we are only beginning to understand how the digital disruption is changing all manner of business relationships. VanBoskirk points to several examples, such as a peer-to-peer loan matchmaker, named Prosper, that could undermine institutional lending, or Best Buy’s open source application programming interface, Remix, which invites third party developers to create applications drawing on the chain’s consumer data.

“So, you have our permission,” the reports says. “Stop your quixotic quest for a paradigmatic digital organization,” and, instead, shore up the digital functions of strategy, governance and execution.

The main question: how is digital changing your business? To develop the big-picture strategy to answer that question, VanBoskirk notes that some companies, like Harper Collins Publishers, assign the strategy-defining task to a chief digital officer, while others, like MetLife, designate a SVP reporting to a CMO or the chief sales officer.

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The Post-Chief Digital Officer Era

The need to determine consistent internal processes and a standard user experience across channels is labeled as governance by Forrester. Again, different organizations have different ways to assign these tasks effectively. And execution, which most e-Business and interactive marketing teams are currently providing, have to expand beyond just online sales or digital marketing to include anything that supports the long-term digital strategy, such as changes in traditional partner relationships.

While digital assignments may span across an organization, potentially diluting the responsibility for digital success, the report has a clear recommendation: “Digital should live in the business function that it currently disrupts the most.”

In a company where online e-commerce is the most important revenue source, for instance, digital might best be owned by sales. For a global communications firm, it’s marketing, while for, say, a publisher, it’s the products division.

In short, the report says, we’re past the point when there’s only one way for organizations to address these changes. For many companies, it’s now a post-Chief Digital Officer era, but, in any case, it’s about being nimble enough to keep up with the customer.

Image courtesy of Jure Porenta (Shutterstock)